Word Made Flesh Bolivia

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Vision Abundant life for those affected by prostitution in Bolivia.
Mission In community we seek to practice and proclaim the Kingdom of God among persons affected by prostitution, through relationship and opportunities for transformation.

Bolivia is beautifully diverse and rich in natural resources, yet one of the poorest nations in Latin America. Still floundering from centuries of exploitation and tumultuous governance, an estimated 60% of the population continues to struggle to meet their basic needs. As the crowning metropolis of the capital La Paz, El Alto is striking at 13,300 feet above sea level. With its raw poverty, intense environment and notorious reputation, it seemed the perfect urban center to begin ministry among the poor. Together these sister cities report approximately 50,000 legally registered sex workers.

WMFB has maintained a consistent presence in El Alto’s prominent red-light district, which hosts roughly 400 beds in a dozen brothels. Here women show the war-torn signs of injustice upon injustice: sexual abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, single-parenthood, heavy debt and more. WMFB meets her here, hoping to break through lies and awaken dormant dreams. And then, when she is ready, offers her the tools and support needed to reach them. The following outlines our current programming.

Women’s Program

We seek solidarity and understanding. We value presence and relationships. For that reason, we visit weekly the largest red-light district in El Alto – and have done so since 2001. There we offer a ministry of encouragement and prayer, along with an invitation to our drop-in center.

In our center, we offer fellowship, discipleship, skill-building workshops, therapy and support in times of crisis.  It is a place of healing – a refuge – where women are empowered to seek the Lord’s best for their lives. WMF Bolivia provides direct support for approximately 70 women annually.

SutiSana

SutiSana provides relief from prostitution for women in Bolivia through full-time employment, health benefits and holistic support. Founded in 2010, the social enterprise works in coordination with the Women’s Program for prostituted women to find stability and reach their full potential. Funds generated from this effort are used to help more women find freedom. Shop products and support the artisans at sutisana.com.

Children’s Program

We seek to empower children and adolescents to break cycles of violence in their own lives.  We offer a holistic program, three days a week, for children affected by prostitution, ages 2-15. Children receive a hot, nutritious lunch, academic or early learning support, dynamic Bible teaching and specific workshops to empower them in leadership. Children and adolescents also may receive therapy and support in family crisis situations.

Advocacy

We seek to awaken an understanding of God’s heart for the vulnerable within the Church and society. Internationally, we seek to provide opportunities to learn and serve among the poor by hosting interns and visitors, and each year we share about our work with dozens of churches and faith-based groups. We maintain an active online presence to keep others connected to our work and share our experience in work with women in prostitution. Finally, locally we engage with anti-trafficking networks and partner with other institutions to pursue movement in the public sector that protects vulnerable persons.

The video below highlights a foundational element of our ministry, our presence in the red-light district. It is password protected, just to serve as a reminder that we ask you not to share the video on social media. Video password is Abundant Life. Check it out! 



  • A World Full of Good People

    almost 48 years ago

    The small group meeting had just ended and everyone filters away to their homes. The matron of the family gathers us together around the table and begins, "We saw your call for help for Wanda,* and we want to help.” All the family nods in agreement.

    “We have a stove that was a wedding present from my father. I’ve kept it all these years and it still works great!” She beams, "I began my catering business with this oven!”

    We can see the tension in her. This piece holds great sentiment. A family heirloom of sorts.

    But she gathers herself and says, “And the Lord said that we couldn’t just give away the stove, but that we needed to provide the propane tank and fill it too. So that’s what we did!”

    And so we loaded up our little car and rattled all the way home on the bumpy streets.

    Wanda was in great need. She came knocking on the doors of our drop-in center, clutching the invitation she received in our Christmas outreach 6 months earlier. Subsisting in the middle of urbanity, no one knew how she and her 3 children were suffering: a single mother prostituting, pregnant from gang rape, cooking on an open fire, and all 4 sleeping on one small mattress on the floor.

    Little Jorge*, starving from hunger, complained to his teacher one day, “I danced for them, and they didn’t pay me like they said they would.”

    The kids gobbled up the food we served them, gnawing even the chicken bones. Wanda explained they had gone a full year without eating meat.

    The Church came together, providing clothes and toys, a bed, food staples and more. And Wanda and her children took advantage of all the resources the ministry could offer. Delaying her C-section to complete our intensive 6-week training, Wanda will soon begin working as one of our newest SutiSana seamstresses!

    "I didn’t realize there were so many good people in the world,” she reflects with deep gratitude.

     

    *Names changed for respect.

    http://wordmadeflesh.org/word-full-good-people/?preview_id=15733&preview_nonce=7c0f303261&_t...

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  • Sign of Love in Her One-Room Home

    over 47 years ago

    This spring, I visited Vanessa’s* to share Sunday lunch and a rite-of-passage tradition for her toddler. She received me in her stepmother’s home, one of two living relatives in her life. I cut her toddler’s hair for the first time – the hair he entered this world with – which now designates me as his godmother. Afterwards, we shared a simple meal of rice and steamed vegetables with mayonnaise. After the meal, Vanessa asked me to cross the patio and see the room she rents for herself and her two young boys.

    The room featured bare concrete floors but a wooden dresser and bed set, given to her by our executive director, when Vanessa found the courage to move out and leave her abusive partner. On the bed, shared by the three, was a shiny square pillow that her older son received in the children’s program. Vanessa tells me, laughing, that the boys love the pillow so much that they take turns sleeping with it.

    Above the bed hang tissue paper puff balls that an intern taught her to make. Aside from her sons’ artwork, it is the only decoration in the room. On the small dining table is the set of cutlery she received when she began to work full-time in SutiSana. She continues to wash each fork and knife and carefully store it back in the original box.

    And then I look at Vanessa herself, who left prostitution for good last year and was recently baptized. She doesn’t seem to know what to comment on, for what she has is not much to show off, nor anything to be ashamed of. We give each other a knowing smile, and walk out into the patio again.

    From: http://wordmadeflesh.org/15226-2/



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  • How God Transformed Darkness into a Beacon of Light

    over 47 years ago

    She showed up at our doorstep over a decade ago. We were young and inexperienced, innocently suspicious of the audacious stories she told. Terrified, she quickly and quietly told of a large web of prostitution and trafficking throughout the cities of El Alto and La Paz, surreptitiously known as “La Casa Blanca,” or “The White House” for the number of political figures that frequented.

    She recounted her horrific experience of being gang raped for days and left pregnant. And then later detailed the satanic ritual that led to a forced abortion and human sacrifice.

    When she found herself pregnant again, she fled for her life and that of her baby. We did all we knew to do at the time: purchase a return bus ticket to her hometown in Brazil. And we never heard from her again.

    Read more here on our blog: http://wordmadeflesh.org/god-transformed-darkness-beacon-light/


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  • Reflections on the Global Conference of the International Christian Alliance on Prostitution

    over 47 years ago

    As soon as I arrived, I became an emotional wreck for days, feeling the tears well up inside me at any given moment and for no explainable reason. After a sob therapy session, I took some time in the prayer room to quietly reflect. I tried to breathe deeply, to quiet my body and mind that had been racing in preparation for this trip.

    I began to walk the labyrinth in the center of the room, slowly following the lines set before me.

    And as I walked…. I realized how very alone I feel.

    Although we have friends and family, cheerleaders, all around the world, as well as a beautiful community around us, this life is one where few can fully relate. As a Christian, a missionary, a leader, a woman, a mother… I don´t completely or neatly fit into any of those groups, and that realization is disheartening sometimes.

    So I walked “my line” carefully placing one foot slowly in front of the other. In my peripheral vision, parallel lines came into view on either side of me. And it occured to me, “I’m really not the only one here. There are others walking a similar path and we’re in this together!”

    Throughout the week, we were invited to collaborate in a piece of art. Broken pieces of colored glass, individually placed but then united to form a beautiful reflection of this community. The mosaic we created balances the brokenness and beauty that we collectively hold, shows the undercurrents of the movement of the Spirit in the midst of the darkness we see, and the glorious beauty when we allow Light to shine through us, together.

    ICAP was for me, a safe, sacred space, a group where I felt deeply understood. And thus, the tears fell. Tears of gratitude. Tears because I no longer felt like I needed to be strong. There I found fellow sojourners who shared the same battle scars and longings for the future, friends with similar dreams, fears and frustrations too.

    Each of us has a special journey we´re called to. And I doubt I´m the only one who feels isolated at times. But maybe someday when we step back and can see the whole masterpiece, we´ll stand in awe of each one´s contribution to the beautiful whole.

    From the WMFB blog: http://wordmadeflesh.org/reflections-global-conference-international-christian-alliance-prostitution...

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  • "You're the One We're Looking For"

    about 47 years ago

    In the red-light district a block from our ministry center, there are 500 beds.  As we do every Christmas, we enter each of the fourteen brothels there donning Santa Claus hats and proclaiming the gospel through Christmas carols.  (Read more here.) The administrators were, as always, remarkably accepting; some even genuinely enjoying the cheerful invasion.

    One administrator in particular pulled us aside and told our staff, "I've got a girl who's not doing well. Think she's about to die."  We weren't able to meet the woman then, but we promised to return to check on her.  Two days later, I returned to the brothel with our social worker in search of this mystery woman to see how we could support her.  We arrived before sundown, and waited inside for the women to arrive for the evening shift.  A friend of ours entered, and we asked her if she maybe knew anything about a woman working in this same brothel doing so poorly.  She was puzzled; she couldn't think of any woman like that there. Our social worker gave her the physical description we had received from the administrator, but as she spoke, she began to arrive at a sinking realization: the woman we were seeking was none other than the woman in front of her, our good friend.

    The unexpected turn of events left my stomach turned over.  On my way home, I wondered at the purpose of the encounter, and could only conclude that our friend Julia* needed to hear the truth: she will indeed die soon, that is if she doesn't find help for her alcoholism, protect herself from her abusive ex-partner, and discover her own worth enough to find a steady home.  

    But the purpose of this bizarre encounter was perhaps also so I would be reminded of the truth: intensive, long-term intervention with these women is worth it.  We could provide a single service: just skills training, or just Bible studies, or just medical attention - and there are certainly groups called to do such specialized work. But as an orphan and a long-term victim of violence, Julia needs and deserves something holistic, something relational.  She needs somewhere to hole up and read her Bible while she hides from her armed ex-partner, she needs someone to confront her when she drops out rehab, she needs some place where she can feel useful and wash dishes after a tea time for new women.  

    The longer I am in this work, the more I appreciate Jesus' example: while he seemed to have little patience with those who had it all together, he was known as a friend of sinners. He announced a new Kingdom open to anyone who didn't believe that they deserved to be there, an invitation to those on the fringes.  In this Kingdom, Julia is cleansed of every sin: her own and those committed against her.  And it is our honor to introduce her to this Kingdom, through persistent love, even when she's not doing well.

    Consider partnering to help us begin 2017 strong! Learn more here: purecharity.com/shine-a-light 

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